With a new year comes a new exciting guest article from webcomic creator, Robin Baggot, whose work, In the Making, is available on Tapas. They tell us all about their experience as a young trans neurodivergent creator, including their artistic process, influences, and how important diversity is in their medium. Let's jump in!
I have always loved reading but because of my autism and OCD, once I got older it was really difficult for me to finish books. I tended to just give up before I’d even started them. Then I discovered comics — and not superhero comics such as Marvel and DC with tons of action and BOOM, CRASH, POW in pop art text — but slice-of-life, LGBTQ+ romance comics. The first one I ever read was Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper and I instantly fell in love with how someone could be an author and an artist at the same time to tell their story more visually than verbally, which made it so much easier for someone like me with special needs to understand and enjoy. I knew as soon as I’d devoured the two volumes that were out at the time that I wanted to be a comic creator and make something that would tell the stories of young trans people like me.
Heartstopper was originally a webcomic and once I discovered this, it opened up a whole new world into other queer stories all being published on apps such as Tapas, which is where I now upload my comic In the Making once a month. I started planning my comic in 2019 and sketched various artworks and scenes but my art really wasn’t very good, and I’ve updated my art style several times since then after gaining inspiration from other works, such as Malacandrax’s Charity Case, which is another one of my biggest influences. I began to properly plan my webcomic in September 2022 and uploaded all my fresh art in October, which is the same version that’s now viewable on Tapas.
Planning my comic is quite similar to planning the plot of a book or a TV show. My process is quite personal, and I’ve found that lots of webcomic creators keep theirs secret as I’ve had to figure out through trial and error what works best for me. What I’m currently doing is writing the dialogue as if it were a movie script. I also note down what reference image goes with each line, estimating the number of panels and pages it will need to be. I get all my reference images from Pinterest and have several boards dedicated to each character, location and character pairings within my story. My next steps are to then do thumbnail sketches, which I do digitally on a program called Clip Studio Paint. This all goes onto my digital tablet. The initial sketch basically starts off as a terrible undecipherable image which probably doesn’t even look like anything but it’s so I can have the foundation for the layout of the page to work with. Afterwards, I get to do the fun stuff: I digitally ‘paint’ the image and get to actually make my thumbnail sketches look like the characters and scenes that I wrote about in my plan before I then add the text from the script.
Art has been my safe space for a long time, but I have always been good at writing too, which is why I’m so glad I found the world of webcomics which enables me to explore this. It’s also important to me that I am able to tell LGBTQ+ stories as I haven’t read many with a main character that is transgender, especially a transgender boy. My hope is that young queer people can identify with my main character (Elliot’s) journey throughout my comic. I’ve tried to include many other characters so that whoever clicks on my webcomic can relate to someone within it no matter their identity and if they’re LGBTQ+ or not. A lot of my characters have been informed by my own personal experiences as a trans, non-binary person and also the experiences of my friends and people I’ve met within the community whose voices aren’t being heard.
It’s more imperative than ever that LGBTQ+ voices are listened to, which is why I enjoy making my comic so much because I truly believe that queer stories make a massive difference to the hearts they touch and allow a safe space for the people who just don’t have access to that in the time we live in. They encourage young and old transgender/queer individuals to be true to their authentic selves when society is telling them they can’t.
Robin Baggot is a webcomic creator and author based in Wiltshire. They’ve always loved to write and draw. Now creating comics, they’re able to do both. When they’re not doodling you can find them collecting crystals and raiding charity shops for bargains. You can read their queer webcomic on Tapas and view their other artwork on their Instagram.